‘Seabed 2030’ a $3bn map project

Sci­en­tists pool oceans of data to plot Earth’s fi­nal fron­tier


LONDON, Dec 6, (RTRS): For ex­perts in the field of ocean map­ping it is no small irony that we know more about the sur­faces of the Moon and Mars than we do about our planet’s sea floor.

“Can you imag­ine op­er­at­ing on the land with­out a map, or do­ing any­thing with­out a map?” asked Larry Mayer, di­rec­tor of the US-based Cen­ter for Coastal and Ocean Map­ping, a re­search body that trains hy­dro­g­ra­phers and de­vel­ops tools for map­ping.

“We de­pend on hav­ing that knowl­edge of what’s around us – and the same is true for the ocean,” he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

With their deep craters and moun­tain ranges, the con­tours of the earth be­neath the waves are both vast and largely un­known.

But a huge map­ping ef­fort is un­der­way to change that.

The UN-backed project, called Seabed 2030, is urg­ing coun­tries and com­pa­nies to pool data to cre­ate a map of the en­tire ocean floor by 2030. The map will be freely avail­able to all.

“We ob­vi­ously need a lot of co­op­er­a­tion from dif­fer­ent par­ties – in­di­vid­u­als as well as pri­vate com­pa­nies,” said Mao Hasebe, project co­or­di­na­tor at the Nip­pon Foun­da­tion, a Ja­panese phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­port­ing the ini­tia­tive.

“We think it’s am­bi­tious, but we don’t think it’s im­pos­si­ble,” Hasebe said.

The project, which launched in 2017, is ex­pected to cost about $3 bil­lion. It is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween

“en­dan­gered” to “crit­i­cally en­dan­gered”.

“It’s not too late for the north­ern bet­tong, but our win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for ac­tion is clos­ing fast,” he said. (AFP)

Ice melt­ing faster than thought:

Green­land’s ice sheet is melt­ing at a faster rate than pre­vi­ously thought and con­tin­ued the Nip­pon Foun­da­tion and GE­BCO, a non-profit as­so­ci­a­tion of ex­perts, which is al­ready in­volved in chart­ing the ocean floor.

The end re­sult would be greater knowl­edge of the oceans’ bio­di­ver­sity, im­proved un­der­stand­ing of the cli­mate, ad­vanced warn­ing of im­pend­ing dis­as­ters, and the abil­ity to bet­ter

global warm­ing will ac­cel­er­ate thaw­ing and con­trib­ute to ris­ing sea lev­els, sci­en­tists said in a pa­per pub­lished on Wed­nes­day.

Ris­ing seas threaten low-ly­ing cities, is­lands and in­dus­tries world­wide. Fore­casts for how high and how soon the rise will come vary greatly, partly be­cause sci­en­tists lack clar­ity on how fast warm­ing oceans are melt­ing po­lar ice sheets. pro­tect or ex­ploit deep-sea re­sources, said Hasebe.

So far, the big­gest data con­trib­u­tors to Seabed 2030 have been com­pa­nies – in par­tic­u­lar Dutch en­ergy prospec­tor Fu­gro and deep-sea map­ping firm Ocean In­fin­ity. Both were in­volved in the search for the Malaysian airliner MH370, which dis­ap­peared in 2014.

Melt­ing ice in Green­land, home to the sec­ond largest mass of ice after Antarc­tica, is thought to add 0.8 mil­lime­tres of wa­ter to global ocean lev­els an­nu­ally, more than any other re­gion, ac­cord­ing to NASA.

In a pa­per pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture, sci­en­tists from the United States, Bel­gium and the Nether­lands an­a­lyzed melt lay­ers in ice cores in western Green­land to de­velop a record span­ning 350 years.

The mag­ni­tude of Green­land ice sheet melt­ing is “ex­cep­tional” over at least the last 350 years and con­tin­ued growth of global av­er­age tem­per­a­ture will ac­cel­er­ate the melt­ing and con­trib­ute to sea level rise, the study said.

Ice sheet melt­ing be­gan to in­crease soon after the mid-1800s. Sur­face melt­ing was the most ex­ten­sive in 2012 than any time over the past 350 years and the pe­riod of 2004-2013 had more sus­tained and in­tense melt­ing than any other 10-year pe­riod recorded.

“We are see­ing lev­els of Green­land ice melt and runoff that are al­ready un­prece­dented over re­cent cen­turies (and likely mil­len­nia) in di­rect re­sponse to warm­ing global tem­per­a­tures since the pre-In­dus­trial era,” Sarah Das, co-author of the re­port and sci­en­tist at the US-based Woods Hole Oceano­graphic In­sti­tu­tion said in a state­ment.

The study showed that although a mi­nor warm­ing event in the past might have had lit­tle or no im­pact on the melt­ing, the same event in a warmer cli­mate in the fu­ture could pro­duce a larger melt ef­fect. (RTRS)

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